Governor Greg Abbott today held a press conference in Houston on the importance of election integrity legislation this session. The Governor named election integrity as an emergency legislative item during his State of the State address in February. Governor Abbott was joined for the press conference by Senator Paul Bettencourt and Representative Briscoe Cain, who have both filed several pieces of legislation to enhance election integrity in Texas
Texas Democrat: We've really been just steamrolled
03:06 - Source: CNN

Editor’s Note: Dean Obeidallah, a former attorney, is the host of SiriusXM radio’s daily program “The Dean Obeidallah Show” and a columnist for The Daily Beast. Follow him @DeanObeidallah. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his own. View more opinion articles on CNN.

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If you cherish US democracy, you should be outraged by what’s just happened in Washington, DC, and Texas. In the US Senate, Republicans managed to block a bill to launch an independent inquiry into the deadly January 6 attack on the Capitol. And in Texas, the GOP tried to enact new restrictive voting measures that not only would make it harder for people of color to vote, but would alarmingly make it easier for Texas judges to overturn election results – something Donald Trump was unable to do after he lost the 2020 election.

Dean Obeidallah

President Joe Biden on Saturday raised alarm bells about the proposed Texas law, bluntly calling it “un-American,” and saying it’s “part of an assault on democracy that we’ve seen far too often this year – and often disproportionately targeting Black and Brown Americans.” Biden is 100% correct.

This is in large part why Texas Democrats dramatically walked off the floor of the state House late Sunday, depriving the GOP of a quorum and effectively blocking consideration of the measure in this legislative session that ended Sunday night. While GOP Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has vowed to call a special session to address “election integrity” among other issues, the hope, ostensibly, is this pause gives more time to those who oppose the bill to make their case to the public and line up even more corporate allies to speak out.

Let’s not play games – the Texas bill wasn’t about “voter integrity.” The 2020 election in Texas, which Trump won by more than 630,000 votes, “was smooth and secure,” as one of Texas’s top election officials testified this earlier year. Even Abbott admitted at a news conference in March he was unaware of any voter fraud in the 2020 election.

No, the bill was about Texas GOP leaders freaking out after seeing that battleground states such as Georgia and Arizona went for Biden in 2020. Their fear of losing power has incited them to champion sweeping measures limiting in-person voting hours and making it harder to vote by mail. As a practical matter, that’s more likely to suppress the votes of Black and brown people, who overwhelmingly voted Democratic last year.

The proposed legislation that the GOP-controlled Texas Senate tried to rush through for a vote on a holiday weekend – without even allowing 24 hours to consider the revised bill in accordance with the chamber’s rules – would have not allowed early election voting to begin until 1 p.m. on a Sunday despite allowing it to begin at 6 a.m. on weekdays. Why? It’s obvious: Black, and Latino voters in Texas organize get-out-the-vote efforts known as “souls to the polls” after church on Sunday mornings.

Democratic state Rep. Rafael Anchía made that very point, telling CNN this new measure was designed to make it more difficult for people of color to vote on Sundays right after they go to church. Sen. Royce West, a Democrat from Dallas, also blasted the absurdity of this provision, noting this would have meant in Texas on Sunday, you could “buy beer at 10 o’clock in the morning,” but wouldn’t be able to vote until 1 o’clock.

Then there was the Texas GOP’s proposed ban on 24-hour and drive-thru voting that was employed in the 2020 election only in Harris County, which Biden won with 56% of the vote. Guess who used these two means of voting the most? An analysis by election officials in Harris County, which includes Houston, found that Black and Latino voters cast more than half of the votes that were recorded both at drive-thru sites and during extended hours. Now you get why Sen. Borris L. Miles, a Democrat from Houston, said people in his district called this GOP proposed voting law “Jim Crow 2.0,” asking him, “Is this 2021 or is this 1961?”

But the proposed Texas measure would have done something other GOP voter suppression laws don’t – at least not yet. (Don’t be surprised if other GOP states follow Texas’ attempt.) The Texas Republicans apparently had a backup plan in case – despite all their restrictions – Democratic candidates are able to win. They proposed revising Texas law to make it easier for judges to overturn the will of the people after the election is over.

Currently, under Texas law, the burden of proof required to make a case for voter fraud is by “clear and convincing evidence.” But the GOP’s proposed law would have lowered that requirement to a “preponderance of the evidence,” making it more likely a questionable case of fraud can succeed. In addition, the GOP bill would have made it easier for a judge to declare an election void without the need for evidence that fraudulent votes resulted in a win.

Putting aside the legalese, election law expert Marc Elias summed it up this way on Twitter, prior to the GOP attempt to rush through the vote: “When combined with the rest of Texas law, this bill will make Texas the easiest state in which to overturn an election via post-election contest.” An attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Texas also slammed the proposed measure, telling the Houston Chronicle, “This is just a perpetuation of the Big Lie, and as we’ve seen throughout the nation, this is a further weakening of the institutional strength of our democracy.”

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The GOP leaders know what they are doing. These proposed laws are intended to help them win – not by offering policy proposals to help our fellow Americans but by making it harder for people who traditionally support Democratic candidates to vote. It’s the very reason why 14 GOP-controlled states enacted 22 new laws between January 1 and May 2021 that restrict access to the ballot box, according to the Brennan Center for Justice.

Both the Republicans’ blocking of an investigation into the January 6 riot and this situation in Texas are a clear and present danger to our Republic – that is, if you believe in democracy. Apparently, GOP leaders no longer do.

This piece has been updated to reflect that Texas Democrats blocked the restrictive voting measure on Sunday night.